A Man and his Camera against Nature

Nicholas White took on some of the UK's harshest environments to create his awe-inspiring homage to the British landscape.

© Nicholas White, from the series, Black Dots

At first glance, you notice only the landscape, stretching out as far as the eye can see. But look closer, and a building, nestled in the landscape, reveals itself, tiny against the great outdoors. This is a bothy, a secluded shelter, where walkers, and indeed all who find themselves in the wilderness and battling the elements, are welcome to rest.

Bothies, originally crofters’ cottages or farmers’ huts, are dotted around the UK – in northern England, Wales, and Scotland. They are very basic and if you’re lucky, may have a small fireplace or a rough raised platform to rest your weary head.

Accessible by foot, bothies, thought to be a Scottish word, are often located far from main roads and were frequently found on estates where shepherds made use of them.

When photographer Nicholas White came across bothies, which are protected and preserved by the UK Mountain Bothies Association, he decided to embark on an adventure to see what these unusual places were all about. So began his series, Black Dots, which he plans to publish as a book with Another Place Press in early 2018.

© Nicholas White, from the series, Black Dots

“Being in these sorts of places is a complete sensory overload,” says White, who spent the best part of three years working on the project. “The smell of wood smoke in the air, the whistle of the wind creeping through the timbers, and the countless artefacts and traces of the people that have been there before you. It's a really interesting environment in which to make photographs.

“There aren't any distractions, you're not trying to sift through the clutter to find something relevant to your story,” he adds. “You find yourself becoming part of the story, totally immersed in the thing you want to photograph.”

Setting out with a large format camera loaded with colour negative film, and 150mm, 210mm and 300mm lenses, not to mention protective hiking clothing and provisions, White and a friend, who shot behind-the-scenes images for a blog White kept, set off on their quest.

Alongside breathtaking landscapes, White was determined to show the human aspect of bothy culture, so he made portraits of the people he met. “The people were an important element of the story,” says White. “They are the reason bothies are there and what makes them so interesting.”

© Nicholas White, from the series, Black Dots

Keen not to create “an architectural survey” of the bothies, White tapped into the environment itself and tried to capture what he felt and experienced. “Stillness is definitely a word I'd use to describe the places I visited,” he says. “Whether it was inside a bothy or out in the hills, the whole process was very therapeutic. I spent a lot of time alone in places that are a fair distance from a road or town, and I like to think that this is reflected in the final edit. Loneliness and distance are very prevalent themes in Black Dots.” 


Nicholas White is a photographer based on the edge of Dartmoor National Park, in the South West of England.

Gemma Padley is a freelance writer and editor on photography, based in the UK.


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